New York officials are bracing for staff shortages as the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for health care workers begins today.
Gov. Kathy Hochul is considering a variety of options, including a state of emergency declaration to bring in licensed health care professionals from other states and health care workers from the National Guard.
“I am monitoring the staffing situation closely and we have a plan to increase our health care workforce and help alleviate the burdens on our hospitals and other health care facilities,” she told CBS News.
“I commend all of the health care workers who have stepped up to get themselves vaccinated, and I urge all remaining health care workers who are unvaccinated to do so now so they can continue providing care,” she said.
About 84% of hospital employees in New York were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Wednesday. In adult care facilities, 81% of staff were fully vaccinated, along with 77% of staff at nursing home facilities.
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in August that all health care workers are required to receive their first vaccine dose by Sept. 27. The regulation applies to out-of-state and contract medical staff as well.
Those who are fired because they don’t get vaccinated won’t be able to receive unemployment insurance without a valid medical exemption, CBS News reported.
“People who will not get vaccinated are the only reason that this country and these communities and our cities have not been able to be fully engaged in a state of normalcy,” Hochul said.
Several groups have filed lawsuits to challenge the vaccine mandate, including the Civil Service Employees Association and members of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association.
On Friday, a federal judge delayed a vaccine mandate for New York City teachers that was slated to also start on Monday.
A panel of judges will review the mandate on Wednesday, which city officials hope to resolve quickly. The education department told principals on Saturday morning that they should prepare for the possibility of the vaccine mandate going into effect later this week.
“We’re confident our vaccine mandate will continue to be upheld once all the facts have been presented because that is the level of protection our students and staff deserve,” Danielle Filson, a spokeswoman for the department, told The Associated Press
About 82% of education department employees are vaccinated, including 88% of teachers, the AP reported. Unions representing New York City principals and teachers have warned that the mandate could lead to staff shortages.
However, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that the city is ready.
“We’ve been planning all along. We have a lot of substitutes ready,” he said. “We are ready, even to the tune of, if we need thousands, we have thousands.”